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Ape diet cuts cholesterol { July 23 2003 }

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   http://www.nationalpost.com/national/story.html?id=EFD750FB-EAF0-444B-A26E-7458F3BDC3B6

http://www.nationalpost.com/national/story.html?id=EFD750FB-EAF0-444B-A26E-7458F3BDC3B6

'Ape diet' cuts cholesterol as well as drugs do
Onions, barley, nuts, soy

Brad Evenson
National Post


Wednesday, July 23, 2003

A new Canadian study has found that eating an "ape" diet, similar to what humans consumed five million years ago, cuts down cholesterol just as well as pharmaceutical drugs.

The study, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says a diet rich in nuts, fibrous grains and vegetable proteins -- what our primate cousins eat every day -- can prevent heart disease.

"The [apes] stuck to the same sort of diet -- we've gone to McDonald's," says lead author David Jenkins, a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto. "This study shows that people now have a dietary alternative to drugs to control their cholesterol, at least initially."

In recent years, statin drugs have earned widespread approval for potency in reducing artery-clogging cholesterol. An article on these wonder drugs graced last week's cover of Newsweek.

Until now, no diet had matched statins at reducing cholesterol. So the researchers considered what foods humans ate as we evolved.

"We went right back in time to, hypothetically, five million years ago, when the diet would largely be leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds," Dr. Jenkins said.

"That's when the evolution took place. I mean, we're only 2% to 3% genetically different from the great apes, the gorillas, the chimpanzees and orangutans. Two or three per cent isn't much. It may take us to the moon, but it's not a lot in terms of the way your gut's put together and your metabolism's put together."

The study split 46 men and women with high cholesterol into three groups. One group ate a low-fat diet, while the second had the same diet plus 20 milligrams of the drug lovastatin, known by the brand name Mevacor. The last group ate the ape diet, designed to be easy to prepare and eat. It included such foods as oat bran bread and cereal, soy drinks, fruit and soy deli slices. A typical dinner was tofu bake with eggplant, onions and sweet peppers, pearled barley and vegetables.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration now allows sellers of many of the diet's foods, such as almonds, to advertise their products as cholesterol-lowering.

After four weeks, the special diet lowered levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol by almost 29%, compared to a 30.9% drop in the lovastatin group. Surprisingly, the diet also lowered the levels of C-reactive protein, considered a risk marker for heart disease.

Dr. Jenkins' team received a great deal of support from food companies including Loblaws Brands Ltd., which has patterned its healthy Too Good To Be True line of prepared foods on the university's research. The diet also includes Quaker Oat Bran cereal and other brand-name foods. Dr. Jenkins said that without the commercial help, the research would have been impossible.

Unlike other diets, this one did not leave people famished.

"The trouble was that the dieters were too full," Dr. Jenkins said. "We had to force-feed people to get them not to lose weight. So that is a problem. The diets are very filling."

For the roughly 50% of Canadian adults who are overweight, however, this might be a godsend.

Lipid researchers say a larger study is needed to confirm the Canadian one, but welcomed Dr. Jenkins' findings. In an editorial in the same journal, James Anderson, a University of Kentucky internal medicine specialist, notes many patients cannot tolerate statins. "For most patients, dietary intervention should be the first line of therapy," he wrote.

bevenson@nationalpost.com

Copyright 2003 National Post




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